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Groundwater governance in Guanajuato, Mexico: towards an effective regulation of the Penjamo Abasolo aquifer

IWRA 2020 Online Conference - Addressing Groundwater Resilience under Climate Change
THEME 4. Groundwater Governance, Management and Policy
Author(s): Fernando González Villarreal, Jorge Alberto Arriaga Medina, Angélica Mendoza Mata

Dr. Fernando González Villarreal
Jorge Alberto Arriaga Medina
Angélica Mendoza Mata
October 2020

Keyword(s): Groundwater governance, groundwater policy, groundwater management, stakeholders participation, user self-regulation, Guanajuato, Mexico


(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis
Analyze the Mexican governance system to identify the elements that inhibit a sustainable aquifer management in Penjamo-Abasolo, Guanajuato and discuss the opportunities of Reglamento as a regulatory mechanism to enhance the adoption of a management plan.

(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed
Groundwater experiences the tragedy of the commons. Thus, it requires an analysis of the governance system to enhance its sustainable management. Worldwide, different policies have been developed based on this approach. These policies include water right systems and their reallocation, pumping bans, changes in economic incentives and subsidies, among others. Generally, the application of these mechanisms have not being sufficient to achieve a sustainable management of groundwater due to the challenges in their implementation and the existence of an inadequate governance system.
Mexico has experienced an increase of the number of overexploited aquifers over the last years.
Guanajuato state is the town with the highest number of ‘critical aquifers´ in Mexico. It has more than 20 000 deep wells, an extraction volume of 4000 hm3/year, and an extraction/recharge rate of 2.5. The Penjamo-Abasolo aquifer is the most critical aquifer in Guanajuato. It presents a deficit of 122 hm3, static groundwater levels of 150 m and sustained drop levels of 3 m/year on average.
Managing plans have experienced difficulties to be implemented as a result of the lack of information and communication systems and the insufficiency of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. A better definition of incentives, sanctions and compensations, as well as the assignation of economic and financial resources is also needed. In addition, the implementation of these actions is also limited as the rule of law is often flexible and sanctions to actors violating the legal framework are rarely putting in place.
The Mexican legal framework has a variety of administrative instruments to restrict the exploitation of groundwater and to limit new water rights based on public interest. The Reglamento outstands among the instruments due to its comprehensive approach that enhance the participation of all stakeholders.

(c) Methodology or approach used
The performance of groundwater governance in Guanajuato is evaluated under the framework of the reform of public policies for aquifer management, proposed by the Implementing Policy Change Project (IPC). The process includes: clarifying objectives, analyzing and mapping actors, identifying indicators of the principles of governance, and selecting options and strategies that reduce risks in the formulation and application of the Reglamento.

(d) Results and conclusions derived from the Project
The enhancement of groundwater governance through the Reglamento is made up of a hydrogeological evaluation update of the Penjamo Abasolo aquifer. Likewise, the elaboration of two programs is derived: the modernization and technification of irrigation to improve the efficiency of water use in the agricultural sector; and the improvement of the administrative water system through a proposal for monitoring and control of extraction.

(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice
The analysis and proposals are expected to suggest guidelines to improve the process of consensual regulation and can be replicated in aquifers in critical condition in Mexico.

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